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Laura Gulbe is a junior on the Pepperdine women's tennis team. She has had a great spring season, earning All-WCC second team honors, clinching a big win against Stanford and helping the Waves to another WCC title. She shares about her experiences growing up, as well as her time at Pepperdine:
Laura  Gulbe

Q: What was it like growing up in Latvia?

A: I lived there until I was about 14 and then I went to school to practice tennis in Spain for three years, so I have an international background. I lived in Austria and trained there too for two years. Growing up in Latvia was unbelievable. It was a lot of fun and it was awesome being around my family. It is such a nice place to grow up in because of all the nature.

Q: When did you start playing tennis?

A: I was almost nine, so that was somewhat of a late start. I really liked it immediately. I wanted to play because my brothers played and I really wanted to beat them.

Q: You have a family of athletes? How has that affected your athletic career?

A: My family on my dad's side is very athletic, but my mom's side isn't at all. The biggest thing is that it is competitive and there are so many things that translate from athletics into real life. It taught me some very valuable lessons at a young age like overcoming adversity.

Q: How did you get in contact with Pepperdine?

A: One of my brother's friends played for the head coach at Pepperdine, and he told me that Per was looking for players. I messaged Per and I really liked him from the first time we talked. After that, I wanted to go to Pepperdine so badly.

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine?

A: There are so many reasons to choose Pepperdine! Obviously academics was a big reason and I really like how small it is. I came for an official visit, and after I made the decision to go to college, Pepperdine was the only choice.

Q: Have you enjoyed living in Malibu?

A: Oh, it has been amazing and so much fun. The girls from my team are awesome. We are all so different, but we are chasing the same goals. Sometimes we get after each other, but it's for good reasons.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your last three years with the Waves, on or off the court?

A: The last two weeks (before the WCC Championships) have been crazy. We beat Stanford and I got the chance to clinch there. We played BYU and San Diego, and then we played USC and I got to clinch again. I got chills all over my body. It is so special to play for something bigger than yourself. Having the team just creates so much energy. People always ask me how I do sports and school and not get tired, and although it is tiring, you get so much energy from your sport that it transfers over to your schoolwork and it also works the other way around.

 Q: You clinched the Waves' second-ever win over Stanford to beat the Cardinal, how did that moment feel?

A: It felt like relief. Ashley was on the court next to me, and all the girls were there, so we were really in it together. I did not feel that much pressure because I thought that if I didn't have it, then Ashley is going to take it. Obviously, I wanted to get the point first because you never know what can happen. The ball is round, and it can bounce either way, and sometimes you can get a little lucky. It felt so amazing and I was so excited.

Q: How has this year's season been for you?

A: The beginning of the spring season was a little bit hard because during the fall I had some injuries and it wasn't the best personally. I just started looking at it from the perspective of taking every moment and making the best of it. It doesn't matter if you feel bad or something isn't going right, you just take every chance you have. Sometimes you can only give 70%, but at that time it is your 100%. Give it your best and it normally works out. This season the girls have been getting along better and better each week, and our coach has helped us with the small things, which eventually become the big things. We are very fortunate to be here and have such great people around. For example, our academic advisor came to our match yesterday and our athletic director comes to all our matches. That's part of why Pepperdine was the choice.

Q: What are your summer plans?

A: That's a good question. I am staying here for May for the NCAAs and hopefully we are going to win that. I am taking a class in June and the goal is to learn something new.

Jeremy Major is a graduating senior on the men's basketball team. He ended his four-year career setting the school's all-time records in assists and games started. He looks back at his career and time at Pepperdine overall:

Jeremy  Major
Q: Looking back over your college career, what are you most proud of?

A: Looking back on my career I would say that I am most proud of the culture change I had the opportunity to be part of. During the time I was getting recruited it was tough to hear people ask me why I was going to Pepperdine since they had been having losing seasons for the last couple of years. When I arrived here, along with some of my fellow teammates in my class, to join guys like Stacy Davis and Jett Raines, it was the start of trying to do our best to change the culture. By the end of my junior year the culture had changed drastically and it felt good to see the student body as well as the faculty feel the same way.

Q: What was your favorite moment of this past season?

A: I would say my favorite moment of this season would be when we beat BYU. We have done it in the past but for how this season was going due to injuries and a lot of adversity it was great to see all of us come together and beat a good BYU team, who was the only team to beat Gonzaga before they lost in the national championship.

Q: Now that a little time has passed, how does it feel to have set the school records for assists and games started? Has that sunk in?

I never had the expectations of breaking any records when I came here. I just wanted to come out each game, give it my all and live with the results. It is an awesome accomplishment and I thank Coach Wilson for having the trust in me as a freshman to put the ball in my hands. What has sunk in, and that's pretty crazy, is that within the last two years, two records that have lasted for 30 years have been broken back-to-back. I'm glad I can be in the same company as my brother and big fella Stacy Davis.

Q: How do you feel about graduation coming up?

It's a bittersweet feeling. College has been an outstanding time and it's a time of my life that I will remember forever. The relationships, the memories, and the brotherhood I have with my teammates will last forever. At the same time, I am thankful that I am graduating and excited that I will hopefully continue to play professionally.

Q: How about for your team? What do you think you'll take away from playing with this team over the past four years?

I took from this year never take anything for granted, whether it be your health, people in your life, or just being able to do something you love. It's easy to get discouraged but no matter how much adversity comes, be thankful for the opportunities you have and do your best to get the most of any situation.

Q: What have you been doing since the end of the season? How has the time been for you?

I have been enjoying these final weeks with my brothers. It's crazy that in a couple of weeks we probably won't see each other for months. So I have just been enjoying my time with them as well as my friends. But I cannot lie: the non-athlete college life is pretty fun, but maybe just a little too much free time for me!

Track Q&A: Kendall Dunn

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Kendall Dunn, a graduating senior on the women's track team, came into Pepperdine as a transfer during her sophomore year. She looks back on her college career, which recently came to an end:

Kendall  Dunn

Q: You were the best 800 runner this year, and rank #3 all-time in the event at Pepperdine. How does that feel for you?

A: It is an amazing feeling! It's funny because I have been a 400-meter hurdler during my entire career at Pepperdine, but due to a recent back injury my coach and I decided it would be best to train for a less-strenuous event for the second half of the season. That being said, I am very happy to say I am ranked #3 all-time in an event I have only ran a total of three times in my life! I owe it all to (Venus Jewett) Coach V's training and the foundation she has built for our program.

Q: What made you decide to transfer here to Pepperdine?

A: I was originally recruited by a different university on a full-ride track and field scholarship. The school was beautiful and was great academically, but after a few short weeks I continued to find myself a victim to sexual harassment. After weeks of feeling violated and isolated, I decided to forgo the opportunity to run for that particular university. Once I left that school, I decided that safety was going to be a top priority as I searched for a new school to transfer to. Pepperdine was by far one of the best places to ensure I would be living in a safe environment. I also struggled with my faith when I was younger and I wanted to attend a school that would strengthen and rebuild my faith. I am happy to say that Pepperdine has given me that opportunity and I have grown and continue to grow closer to the Lord. The beautiful location and the amazing teammates I am able to train with every day are just added bonuses!

Q: How have you liked your three years here?

A: My three years here have been absolutely unforgettable. Being at Pepperdine has allowed me to strengthen all aspects of my life, whether it be my relationship with God, family, friends, academics, community involvement and so on. I'm so lucky to have been given the opportunity to attend an academically renowned college while also competing at the Division I level in the sport I love. I'm also happy to say that the relationships I have built with friends, teammates and staff members along the way will continue to prevail once I graduate. I would relive these three years over and over again if possible because of all the memories and accomplishments I have made over the course of my college career.

Q: What's it like to look back on your college track career?

A: Overwhelming. This sport has given me a lot of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. I believe every athlete can relate to this. But I don't think I would be where I am today without track because track literally saved my life. You see, when I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma skin cancer. After being diagnosed, I became very sick and had to undergo multiple surgeries, which led to my absence from track during my sophomore year of high school. The one thing that I used as my escape - track -- had vanished and I felt very angry and depressed during that time. So after hearing the doctor say, "If you had waited a couple more months to get your skin checked you would have been dead in a year," it ignited a drive and motivation from within me that I had never felt before. Hearing that you were on the brink of death isn't something you take lightly, so from that moment on I made it my goal to treat every meet, every practice and every step like it was my last. That being said, after looking back on my college career, I am glad to say I did just that. Track has taught me to never take my life for granted and to glorify God by using the ability he has so graciously given me.

Q: What's your favorite memory from your Pepperdine career?

A: Other than Tori's mediocre limbo skills, I would have to say my favorite memory was the conclusion of our 2015-2016 season. We ended the season with so many broken school records and it was exciting to be a part of that experience. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your hard work being paid off by breaking records!

Q: What about in general a favorite memory from your time at Pepperdine?

A: I really enjoyed participating in Songfest during my sophomore year. Songfest was the first time I truly got involved on campus and it allowed me to build new friendships and create memories that will last a lifetime. Once I graduate and look back on my Pepperdine career, Songfest will always be one of the first memories that come to mind.

Q: How has it been running for these coaches?

A: I have absolutely loved running for these coaches. Coach Radnoti has been there for us constantly at practice and keeps our team organized. But I spend most of my hours with Coach V, since she is the sprint/hurdle coach. Coach V has gone above and beyond my expectations as a coach. She genuinely cares about our success as athletes and every workout is carefully crafted to ensure that she is training us to the best of her ability, and there is nothing more loving than that. Besides being a coach, she has been a role model to me and sets an example of how I wish to lead my life once I graduate from Pepperdine. She is an example of a strong, courageous, fun and fabulous woman, and I am going to miss her more than words can describe.

Q: How about running with these teammates?

A: I don't even know where to begin in describing how amazing these teammates are. As a transfer student, I was so worried that I might feel left out upon joining the team. Fortunately, after a few practices and getting to know the girls on and off the track, I immediately felt welcomed. They enjoy sporadic dancing with me at practice, they understand my love for food, and I know I can always count on them when I need a shoulder to lean on. I really don't know what I would have done without these amazing women during my Pepperdine career.

Q: Are you excited for graduation?

A: Absolutely! Not only will my degree signify the completion of college, but it will also be a time to reflect on all of my academic accomplishments and hard work. Better yet, I will also be celebrating the day with close family and friends. It will be such an incredible memory and I am excited to hit this milestone in my life. I owe it all to God and also to those who contributed to paving my path along the way.

Q: Do you have any plans for after graduation?

A: I plan on winning the lottery and crossing the first thing off on my bucket list, which is to travel to the Nyungwe Forest in Africa to play with chimpanzees!

Junior pitcher Kiko Garcia speaks with us about this year's team, and about the seniors that he has played with for the last three years. The Waves take on rival LMU in a three-game WCC series in Malibu starting Friday.

Kiko  Garcia

Q: The Waves are coming off of a couple of tough games against BYU and USCB. What does the team need to do to get back on track and finish the conference season strong?

A: I think we need to get back to the things we were doing earlier in the year that were working for us. Coming from the perspective of a pitcher, we were successful in getting ahead early and attacking hitters, and I think that we just haven't been executing like we should be as of late. Mentally, we are all there. We know what we need to do. We just need to execute.

Q: Each year you have been here, the teams have all had something special about them. What do you think that "something" is for this year's squad?

A:  I think that this year, the team has such great chemistry. There haven't been any fights between the guys. We are all super close, and we are absolutely set up for success.

Q:  As a junior, you have spent your entire career with the seniors of this year. How have they influenced you in your career at Pepperdine?

A:  They have definitely laid the groundwork for all of the success in the past. They are probably my favorite senior group that I have played with at Pepperdine. They really get the team motivated to play each and every day, and are really good role models for the younger guys.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory with any of the seniors?

A: I think it has to be with Chandler Blanchard. As a pitching staff, we come together on road trips and make music with him. A funny example is when we went to Texas this year. We made a little bit of a soundtrack, and it was a lot of fun to make, and we had a lot of laughs doing so.

Q: How do you think the leadership of the seniors has helped your leadership with the freshmen and sophomores?

A: I think that they set a standard of what Pepperdine baseball is all about. There is definitely a high standard of play here, higher than other schools, it feels, and I think that the seniors have done a great job of making that standard known.

Q: As a junior, you only have one more year after this as a Wave, what are you most looking forward to as a senior?

A: Making the most of my career here. It could be the last year of baseball I ever play, so I just want to make the best of it and embrace the memories. I will be leaving all I have on the field for sure.

Q: Do you have plans for your post grad? Are you looking to play ball after school?

A: If it happens, it happens, and it would be great. Realistically, it's super hard to make it all the way, but if the opportunity arises, I will absolutely take it. If not, I want to go to grad school and become a normal person again.

Q: Finally, with the season getting nearer to the end, what can we expect from the Waves coming down the stretch?

A: I think you will see a lot of fight. A lot more than you have seen recently. We are going to compete as hard as we can. Especially this week against LMU. They are one of our biggest rivals, and it is always a really competitive series. We just need to execute and get it done to get a chance to go to the conference tournament, and as far as we can run with it.

Emma Engelland is a freshman on the Pepperdine women's track team. Although she doesn't have a very long running history and it's her first year of running track at the college level, she's had an incredibly strong start and set the school record in the 100-meter hurdles. She reflects on her first season as well as her goals going forward.

Emma  Engelland

Q: So you set a school record in your first season here at Pepperdine! How does having that achievement so early on feel for you?

A: It is such an honor to be able to contribute to the team in a way such as this. It is very rewarding and validating to achieve big goals, but ultimately it is a reminder of how well I am coached and supported.  My coaches have put so much energy and thought into my training and my teammates have kept me accountable and supported me every step of the way. I am extremely proud to be a part of this team and this amazing group of women.

Q: You initially set the record, but it wasn't allowed due to a wind-aided time, before you came back and set it officially. Was it disappointing running fast but not being able to set the record because of the technicality?

A: I remember running across the finish line, and I could tell it was going to be a fast time. I immediately looked up at my coach and she yelled down to me from the stands that I had gotten it, but it was wind-aided. In that moment, I was frustrated, but I knew that I couldn't control the wind. I controlled what I could, and there was no use dwelling on the rest. That race validated the training that I had been doing and made me excited to run again the next week.

Q: How did it feel to set the record that next week after losing out on the technicality the first week? Did it make the achievement more special or better?

A: After running my wind-aided time, I started researching online how much the wind improves times. Of course this was silly and unnecessary, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to PR again the next week. At UCLA a week later, when I crossed the finish line and saw my time, it was a pretty cool feeling. It felt good to claim the record for real just seven days later. Also I have to give a huge shout out to my teammates and coach for being so incredibly supportive at that meet. They made me feel so special and were so proud of me. Nothing's better than being recognized by those you look up to most. They are pretty incredible people.

Q: What is your background with running?

A: My path is different than most in that I actually haven't been running for very long. In middle school I did track for a couple years, but only ran my senior year of high school. I was blessed with great coaching for that year and quickly picked up hurdling, along with a passion for the sport. I am extremely humbled to have the opportunity to run in college. It was never part of the plan, but it has certainly become one of the biggest blessings in my life.

Q: What led you to choose to come to Pepperdine and run for Pepperdine?

A: I was interested in Pepperdine for many of the same reasons as many other students: the study abroad programs, the class and school size, the quality of education and the incredible professors. But I didn't make my decision until I stepped on the campus. I felt so safe and comfortable, and was just struck by its incredible beauty. Because I only ran my senior year, track was almost an after-thought, to be honest. When I applied, I didn't even know I was going to be running track in high school. Coach Rad was great though, and helped me to feel like despite my lack of experience, I could run here.

Q: Has it been an adjustment at all coming here to Pepperdine and running track now in college?

A: I have certainly grown and changed a lot this year, and it would be untruthful to say it has been a walk in the park, but I have absolutely loved my time here so far. I have found the transition to be fairly smooth, no doubt in part because of my team, who acts as my family here on campus. I love my busy schedule and practices and classes so it makes the constant activity worth it.

Q: How have you liked your teammates?

A: I cannot speak highly enough about this group of girls. This team is without a doubt the best group I have ever had the privilege of belonging to. These girls are so passionate about our sport, but also about school and each other. They are the type of girls that ask how you are doing, and stick around for the answer. I can never repay them for all the listening ears and advice and even the snarky comments they so frequently send my way. Truly, I am blown away by the way they live their lives and I am inspired by each one of them.

Q: How have you liked running for these coaches?

A: Both Coach Rad and Coach V have been incredibly supportive, but Coach V is our sprint coach, so I spend much more time with her. She is an amazing leader, teacher, athlete and coach. She is so transparent with us and while her expectations are very high, she never jeopardizes our well-being for our performance. She treats us so well and really takes the time to understand each of her athletes learning styles to be able to best serve them. It is an honor to train under her.

Q: What are your goals going forward?

A: One thing Coach V always reminds me to do is to have fun. I often become so focused that I forget to enjoy the incredible sport I get to do every day. I am working towards being able to relax and enjoy my time here. I would love one last PR at the meet in Long Beach, but then my job is just to heal up and stay in shape over the summer.

Q: Is there anything else you want to say or reflect on as you go into your last meet this season?

A: I would just like to thank the seniors, Izzy, Gabby, Tori, and Kendall. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you four for what you have done for this team and for instilling the pride you have in it in the underclassmen. You have been incredible leaders and role models, on and off the track. Thank you for showing me what it is to work so hard and have so much fun and love people so well. Each of you are going to make waves in the world and it has been such a privilege to get to walk with you this year. Thank you for entrusting your team to us. I promise we will take good care of it.

Freshman infielder Quincy McAfee of the Pepperdine baseball team tells us about the recent offensive explosion from the Waves, and about his transition from high school to college:
Quincy  McAfee

Q: The Waves are coming off quite the offensive showing with 43 runs in the past 4 games. What has clicked for the Waves in the past couple games?

A: I think just being able to stick to our approach and buying into the approach has really helped. We talk about sitting on fastballs and hitting fastballs, and I think that we have done that really well these past couple of weeks.

Q: How can you, as a team, continue to produce those kinds of numbers at the plate?

A: Just to continue to stick to that approach. Occasionally, we will come upon situations where we try to do too much instead of doing what we know and what we are comfortable with, and in those situations, we just need to trust our coaches and trust our approach.

Q: In the weeks before the offensive explosion, the bats were struggling a little bit. Has the coaching changed at all during the weeks, or has the team mentality changed?

A: I think it is a bit of both. It is really not fun as a hitter to not hit well and not produce runs for the team. So the want and need to produce is definitely up there. But I think that trust in our teammates and the mentality of the team has really improved and produced the runs that we need. Once one person gets going, there is really a ripple effect that takes place, and we just keep going.

Q: Historically, the baseball team has been a really close team. Do you think the family mentality contributes to the success of the team?

A: Yeah, everyone is definitely close. I think that it starts with the seniors. They do a great job of not separating themselves from the team. I also think that we as freshmen have done a good job following in the footsteps of the guys older than us. We all kind of mesh together, and it makes it easy to compete together.

Q: You are a freshman this year. How did the upperclassmen welcome you into the team? Were they pretty easy to get along with as soon as you arrived on campus?

A: Yeah, and it was a little surprising to me, because I had no idea what to expect. The first person I met when I first arrived on campus was Ben Rodriguez. He was extremely welcoming, as was Brandon Caruso, the second teammate I met on campus. The seniors have definitely been embracing us young guys and showing us the ropes.

Q: Coming to California all they way from Texas is a pretty big change. How has that transition been from high school to college?

A: Academically, it has definitely been a greater challenge. Being away from everyone, including our families, has been tough, but I think that all the guys on the team have made the transition a lot easier. They invite us all over to their apartments and houses, and make a point of hanging out with us. It's been really cool.

Q: Along that line, you moved out here with a familiar face. Your high school teammate, Brandt Belk, is also here playing baseball at Pepperdine. What was that like back at home? Did you guys make the decision together? Or did things just kind of work out?

A: Things just kind of worked out that way. Initially, he was going to Rice, and I was coming here. His going to Rice fell through, and there was always the option of coming out to Pepperdine. He ended up coming, and it was awesome being able to go to school with my best friend. Not only did we go out of state and into the same new state, but we also came to the same school. It definitely made the transition easier. It made it easier to go out and meet people and make friends.

Q: You came in and started playing right away. Was the move from high school baseball to college baseball a difficult one? Or did you feel real comfortable as soon as you stepped in?

A: It was a little difficult. I actually got a chance to play in the North Woods League, a college summer ball league, over summer. That experience made it a lot easier coming in to Pepperdine. Playing in the North Woods was really difficult at first. The game was faster, and the guys were bigger and stronger. I felt that when I first came out here, the first month or two of baseball really helped the transition.

Q: Finally, as we are in the middle of conference season now, what can we expect from the Waves the rest of the season?

A: Hopefully, a lot more games like the past couple weeks. Games where we score a lot of runs, and our pitchers continue to dominate on the mound.

Treet Allison is a freshman on the men's track team but his youthful status hasn't stopped him from already setting a few school records (400, 800 and 1,500 meters) while determinedly looking toward the future and working hard to meet his goals. He shares how his time at Pepperdine has been so far and what has helped him to transition and do well:

Treet  Allison

Q: So you've come in and already set some records as a freshman! How does that feel?

A: It feels great to be able to come in freshman year and be able to compete with other guys that are working hard. The progress is showing and it makes me feel confident about what the future holds.

Q: Did you think you would come into your freshman year starting off so well or has it been kind of a surprise for you?

A: Honestly this season has been a complete surprise to me so far. You always want to put in your best work and trust the system, and this time the training has really paid off quickly in the season. Now it's just time to see where we can go from here.

Q: What have you focused on to help you to do so well?

A: I have really been focused on working hard during practice with my middle distance workout group. Even when our bodies and minds are feeling done, everyone helps each other focus on getting through. When it comes to racing I continue to try to convince myself that I can stick with the faster guys and try to see how far my body can hurt before it quits.

Q: Has the transition been different or difficult at all, running track in college?

A: The transition to college running was a big jump for me last semester in cross country, when I came into a completely different state, altitude/terrain and atmosphere of living on my own. When I came back from winter break I had a better idea of what I was in for and so track season's training started up much more smoothly.

Q: What are your goals or what are you focusing on as you move forward?

A: For this season I really want to start getting my 1,500 meter time further down to a more regionally competitive time so that in the future I will be able to represent Pepperdine at the higher end of competition. 

Q: So your older brother also was a good runner for Pepperdine. Is running something your family all enjoys?

A: Yeah, my brother Seth Allison was a runner for Pepperdine from 2007-2011 and was basically the trend-setter for running in my family. Once he started and excelled in it, it caught on to the next three brothers and we picked it up and "ran" with it.

Q: So what is your background with running?

A:  My background of running started off with being dragged to every track and cross country meet my brothers competed in when I was younger. I remember doing a 10-11 mile race with my dad when I was around five and from then on I've had a particular taste for distance racing. I was inspired by my older brothers' success and dedication to becoming better each mile through pushing themselves to the limit.

Q: What do you like about the coaches at Pepperdine and your team?

A: I absolutely love Coach Rad, he's always pushing and expecting more of us each day. It doesn't matter if you're having a good day or a bad day, he understands that performing, no matter what the world is throwing at you, is part of what makes people successful. He's understanding to a very personal level, but also a driving force to get things done. I also love my team. We are all really close and share a brotherhood together. We are each in each other's lives to help get through rough times and to help push each other when we can't do it ourselves.

Freshman catcher Joe Caparis is having a big week, getting a walk-off single to lift the Waves over Gonzaga in Sunday's finale to win the series, and then hitting his first career home run against CSUN on Tuesday. He speaks about the nerves coming in as a freshman, as well becoming comfortable with his teammates:

Joe  Caparis

Q: The Waves just came off of a big series win against Gonzaga and another big win against CSUN. How do you feel these past two wins have been for the confidence of the team?

A: I think that going into the rest of our conference series, having one of those Tuesday games where we can explode on offense and show what we can do is huge for our confidence. We know that we can hit like that all the time, so it was nice to actually do it.

Q: You played a huge part in the win in the last game of the series against Gonzaga, getting the walk-off single to win the game. What did it feel like getting that game-winning hit?

A: I wanted to hit the ball hard. I knew that the guys behind me in the rest of the lineup would get it done, so I wasn't worried that we weren't going to do it. It honestly was really surprising that it was me to do it, knowing that I had been struggling that game at the plate. It was a really awesome feeling to get the win for the team.

Q: What have the nerves been like as a freshman coming in and playing as much as you have?

A: The first six or seven games that I played, my nerves were off the charts. Everything was all over the place. The pace of the game was so much faster than in high school. I couldn't keep up with everything going on in the game. But the past week and a half, two weeks or so, it has been starting to fall in place, both offensively and behind the plate. I think that getting the opportunity to get in the game and really show what you can do is really nice, because you never know how many games you are going to get to play.

Q: You mentioned that the nerves were off the charts. How have you been able to settle down and really get into a rhythm?

A: Knowing that I have already failed. I didn't do well at all for a couple games, and I heard about it from the coaches. I know that I am in there for a reason, and I wasn't going to lose this opportunity to go out and play the game I love, and play as well as I can.

Q: Along that point, did you expect to come in as a freshman and start the majority of games behind the plate? How have you become so comfortable back there?

A: Coming in as a freshman, I knew about Aaron (Barnett) and Austin (Bernard) and that they were both really experienced, and both coming off of great seasons last year. I just wanted to come in and compete. I didn't know what was going to happen, and I didn't expect what has happened. I kind of had it in the back of my head that they were going to get the majority of the playing time, so I wanted to use this year as a learning year and learn as much as I could from those guys, and be ready for when my opportunity did arise.

Q: Being a catcher, you have the unique perspective of working with both the position players and the pitchers, including the coaches. How does that help you know what is going on in the minds of the players and coaches when they make decisions?

A: When it comes to the pitchers, I think that it is extremely important to know each one of them personally. Knowing who they are, how they work and how they handle their struggles. A lot of it is also how I can help them through those struggles, whether it is keeping their eyes focused on the task at hand, or getting them through a tough inning. With the position players, we know that we are all playing a part behind our pitcher, and need to make plays behind them and for them, so we can give ourselves a chance to score some runs.

Q: How has the transition been from high school to college, both athletically, and academically?

A: It has been tough going from the academics in high school to the academics in college. Especially the time commitment. The average day in college is a lot more hectic, especially being a student-athlete. Overall you really need to be efficient to get the things done that you need to every day.

Q: What have you been able to learn from the upperclassmen so far this season? Both about baseball and about college life in general?

A: I have learned to work hard and get everything done, but also, more importantly, to enjoy the time here. We are out there with the guys more than with our own families during the year, so it is extremely important to become comfortable with each other and understand that we are all in this as a team.

Patricia Wong, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's golf team, had a strong freshman year, placing third on the team in scoring average and earning All-WCC first team honors. Now as a sophomore, she's still one of the strong players on the team. She reflects on her freshman year, shares what she's learned, and what her goals are moving forward:
Patricia  Wong

Q: Having now been through one postseason run as a freshman, how do you think that experience will help this time around?

A: The more experience, the better! Having played WCCs and NCAA Regionals my freshman year gave me so much excitement and motivation for this year's WCCs and NCAA Regionals. It's important to stay in the moment and to reminisce the good shots from last year but also to look at the goal that's right in front. So moving forward, we want to make it further than Regionals. 

Q: Does it feel differently playing golf as a sophomore now as opposed to your freshman year?

A: I definitely feel like my freshman year, I had a lot of adjusting to do. Now as a sophomore, I know what it's like to be a full-time student and a full-time athlete and I don't need to adjust anymore. I just have to keep grinding and have fun out there. 

Q: What do you think you learned the most from your freshman year that you'll take with you as you move forward?

A: I think as a freshman, I played free and fearless. I had nothing to lose. It was just the beginning of my college career. And now that I'm a sophomore, I can learn from that mentality and trust myself to play fearlessly. 

Q: So you just got back from a match-play tournament, the SDSU March Mayhem, which is a different format than you typically play. What did you think about that? 

A: Instead of going against a whole field of players, it's just you and one other opponent, battling it out until the very last hole. It was intense and thrilling at the same time. I loved it!

Q: You won three of your four matches, so you were the Waves' most successful individual there. How does that feel?

A: I don't have much experience with match play, so for me to go out there and win three of my four matches, I learned a lot and it really showed me a different perspective of the game. But I definitely think the most special part of it was having my parents, family, friends and teammates out there watching and supporting me. 

Q: What are you focusing on for this season?

A: I am definitely focusing on having a positive attitude and mindset while I play and minimizing my mistakes on the course. I want to help the team as much as I can. At the same time, I want to enjoy every last bit of this season. It's sad to think I only have two years left!

Brittany Howard, a graduate transfer student, is a standout in her first season for the Pepperdine women's beach volleyball team. She shares with us what her journey was like coming from Stanford to Pepperdine and her experience here so far:
Brittany  Howard

Q: You were an indoor player at Stanford prior to coming to Pepperdine and played on Stanford's beach squad as well. What is the biggest difference you've noticed in adjusting to the beach?

A: I think the biggest difference is the ball control that is necessary. In beach, you have to touch the ball at least one or two times every play, so your skill set is much less specific compared to indoor. The transition for me has been easier because I was a six rotation outside, so I had to pass and hit a lot in that role. The biggest skill I have had to work on is my setting and placement for Corinne, my partner.

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine for graduate school?

A: I wanted to come to Pepperdine because I have always wanted to live in Southern California. For me, when I had the opportunity to play for Nina and Marcio, I didn't think there could be a better fit or a better group of girls I could play with. I thought that it just made sense that I would come here and play.

Q: What is the team chemistry at Pepperdine like?

A: The team chemistry is so awesome. The girls were extremely welcoming to me and the other new players. Everyone gets along so well and we are a really awesome team of 19 girls. I love them all. We work hard together every day, we push each other and we are all very competitive, but we all really love each other and support each other.

Q: What are the biggest differences between Palo Alto and Malibu?

A: The most obvious difference is that Malibu is right on the water. In general, Palo Alto has more places to go eat and other things around. Whereas in Malibu, you have a few places you go and eat. Palo Alto is also very tech oriented and you always had people walking around the university in suits, which is very different than Malibu. However, I love them both equally, and have really enjoyed being in both places.

Q: Tell me about your connections with your coaches here.

A: I adore Nina, Marcio and Gustavo. When I was first deciding where I would play beach volleyball, I sent out a few emails and heard back quickly from Nina. I talked with Nina on the phone and pretty much committed. I fell in love with her and thought she was really honest and funny. Nina has just been great. She is just like our mother. She loves us so much, but she really does push us and want the best for us. Marcio has been awesome. He is one the best coaches, if not the best coach, in the world. Having such a great coach has helped all of us as we are developing. He is really funny as well. He is very intense, and I definitely learn a lot from him each day. Gustavo is just incredible. He matches Nina and Marcio's intensity. The three of them work together so well and they make a really fun environment for us to practice in every day.

Q: Is there something or someone that inspires you to compete?

A: My mom and I played volleyball together ever since I was really little. It started with us playing with a balloon in my house. She played in college and went to the Final Four three times. She played on the National Team and professionally, so she's always inspired me because she competed at the highest level there ever could have been. She is such a competitor and such a loving and kind person. Growing up, she has been extremely supportive and wants the best for me and is proud of me. I love competing and knowing that she is watching every game.

Q: How was your first competition as a Wave?

A: It was so incredible. I remember the morning of I had my alarm set for 7:00, and I woke up at 5:30 ready to go. I was completely ready by 6:15. If you know my roommate and I, we are not morning people, but we were both just so excited to compete. Going through the day I was extremely nervous because I realized that I had not competed in such a long time. We played against UCLA, who was ranked #3 at the time and we were ranked #4. It was the first time Corinne and I had played together. It was a really intense match against a really good UCLA team and we won in two. It was really exciting to get that done for our team. It was an incredible first match experience and it set the tone for how Corinne and I wanted to compete the rest of the year.

Q: You also cracked the #NCAATop10 video a few weeks ago at #7 with Corinne. How was it being seen on a national level and being the first beach team to get props on the inaugural top 10 list?

A: Oh wow! I didn't know that! I am so honored and humbled. That's really, really cool. I give a lot of that to Corinne. She is like my rock when we are out there. She is so confident and steady. There are balls that I cannot even imagine getting and she just gets them all the time. I think Corinne and I work really well together and work really hard. It is awesome that other people have noticed how well we work together.

Q: Who or what has impacted you the most here at Pepperdine?

A: My teammates. They have just been so awesome and so welcoming. I moved here and I didn't know a single person at Pepperdine. My roommate and I are both fifth years and we get along so great. The team was welcoming to us and everyone loves each other so much. I want the season to be longer because it feels like it is going by so quickly, but we are definitely going to make it count.

Michael Wexter, a sophomore on the Pepperdine men's volleyball team, gives us insight into his experience with the sport and his time here in Malibu:

Michael  Wexter

Q: Give us the insider scoop on how the season is going.

A: We are doing pretty well. I think that we surprised some teams, but we lost a few games that we should have won as well, so it is going both ways. As a team we are getting better every day.

Q: What is your favorite Marv-ism?

A: For sure, "I think we're good here." He basically says it whenever we are done with anything in practice.

Q: Who or what inspires you to compete?

A: I have always wanted to compete at the highest level as I could. Seeing professional athletes, such as the Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, work really hard motivates me. For example, Butler came back into the season as an All-Star after having a decent season the year before and he was named the Most Improved Player. The reason that he got so much better was that over the summer he gave up all electronics and lived in a house with his friends. The only thing they could do when they got bored was go to the gym and workout. Seeing people who do stuff like that makes me realize that there are always people who are working harder than me and that's what makes me want to be so much better.

Q: Coming from Illinois, what do you miss most?

A: The pizza. Definitely the pizza. And then, of course, my family. The pizza out here is just not the same.

Q: Has your family been able to make it to watch you play?

A: My family has been able to come out both last year and this year. It is nice having them in the stands, but I really enjoying spending the time with them when I am not on the court. That's more important to me. The fact they get to watch me play is pretty cool too.

Q: What do you love most about living in Malibu?

A: The weather. I was never a big fan of winter, so coming here where it is 68 and sunny every single day is pretty nice. Last year, I put on shorts and a t-shirt every day and never looked at the weather.

Q: I heard that you did gymnastics in your youth? Tell me about that experience.

A: I started gymnastics when I was younger because my siblings were doing it and were good at it. I can't do anything cool anymore because what I learned all went away as I grew. I've got a pretty good cartwheel still, though. I think that gymnastics when you are younger helps a lot with hand-eye coordination, being stronger and being more active. It definitely made me stronger and want to compete more.

Q: Has did your family's involvement in athletics affect your decision to play volleyball?

A: Ever since I was a little kid, my family drove all over the place because my siblings had all of their practices and I did not really have a choice about going into athletics. There was a point when I was in basketball, soccer, football and volleyball all in the same season. I literally had days where I would have different practices all day, then I would go home and do homework and go to sleep.

Q: What do you see as your role on the team on and off the court?

A: I don't know what my role is, but I do know that it is changing as I get older. Last year, I was trying to learn as much as I could. Matt Tarantino was one of the best volleyball players I've ever seen. Coming from Chicago, I had to relearn volleyball to play at Pepperdine. This year, I think I am trying to be more of a leader on the court, but I am still a younger guy, so I just do my best to pitch in wherever I can.

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at Pepperdine?

A: I have a pretty short-term memory when it comes to volleyball. A lot of the stuff I remember comes from watching film. I go back and rewatch all the plays I made. One of my favorite moments is probably when I came to my first open gym. I was so used to being at a certain level of play, but the other guys showed me that there was so much more competition and everyone pushed me to be there and get better.

Junior pitcher Max Gamboa tells us about the season so far, as well as giving us an inside look on how the Draft process works for professional baseball. The Waves take on Gonzaga in a three-game WCC series beginning Friday at Eddy D. Field Stadium.

Max  Gamboa

Q: The season has gotten off to a little bit of a rough start. What do you think needs to happen for the team to right the ship?

A: I think that we as a team need to come together and play like we know we can. The pitchers have been throwing well, and the hitters have been hitting well, we just need to have both do well on the same day. I think that we are figuring it out and just correcting the little things. Once the timely hitting and pitching come around on the same game, we will be fine. With the start of conference play, we are definitely eager to do well and represent Pepperdine well.

Q: What are some of the positives that the team is looking at in order to keep morale up in the clubhouse?

A: Joe Caparis had a four-hit game on Sunday as a freshman, which was huge. He has really stepped in when he has been called upon. I think that as pitchers, we know that the hitters are going to pick us up, and I'm sure the hitters know that we are going to pick them up as well. You can't really single one specific group out. I think that that is the biggest morale booster. We all know that it is going to come around, and we are doing our best to have it happen as soon as possible.

Q: As a junior, how has your leadership role changed as opposed to years past?

A: I think this year has been different because I knew that it was time for me to step into that role of a leader. It has been cool to be able to lead some of the younger guys and be able to share my perspective on things with them. I have been through ups and downs here at Pepperdine, so I know what the guys are going through. And credit needs to go to the younger guys as well. They are super receptive to the upperclassmen and don't brush them off when the upperclassmen are trying to help. Leading by example is extremely powerful, and that is what I try to do. Especially with the pitchers. I know exactly where they are, and I think that my experience can help them develop as players.

Q: This being your junior year, the MLB Draft may be on your mind. How can you keep the games being played now separate from that?

A: I try not to think about it. I try to focus on what is going on here at Pepperdine. I know that the rest of the guys that are getting looked at, including myself, want to do the best that we can for our school. We know that everything will work out, and the chips will fall where they may and that will be that. Right now, I am focused on nothing else but trying to win a WCC championship and get to the post-season and make a run to Omaha.

Q: Were you a touted prospect in high school when it came to the MLB Draft?

A: Not really. I wasn't one of the big blue-chip guys out of high school. I am fortunate enough to get the opportunity to come here to Pepperdine and learn as much as I have. The coaches, Hirty, Coop, and especially Garza have taught me so much, as well as Rod and Strauss before them. I have learned and matured a lot both on and off the field here at Pepperdine. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have been given. I just want to take every opportunity I can and make this school and this program proud.

Q: For those of us who don't know about the MLB Draft process, what is it like?

A: It is pretty similar to any other job, to be honest. There are obviously differences, because of the nature of the job itself. Scouts will come out to see you play to try and see your strengths and weaknesses. They want to find out ways to improve their teams, and for players that they can develop into what they want and need. There is definitely an open conversation between the scouts and the athletes themselves. The big thing to keep in mind when this process is going on is to keep playing. It is no different playing without scouts there. We are still trying to win ball games regardless of whether there are scouts in the crowd or not. And if they see something they like, it is an added bonus. We just want to try to win games.

Q: Going forward with WCC play, what can we expect from the Waves as they continue a run toward post-season play?

A: I think you can expect really good things. We know where we are struggling and we know what we need to work on. We are taking steps toward fixing problems every single day, so I think that really great things are on the horizon for Pepperdine baseball. There is a saying that has been said around the clubhouse, "We are one game away from catching fire." A truer thing hasn't been said. Once we get going, we are going to run with it until the end of the season.

Clay Feagler, a freshman on the men's golf team, has posted three top-10 finishes and four top-20 results in four spring tournaments. He tells us about how he's made such a strong improvement between fall and spring, and about his time on the men's golf team so far in general:

Clay  Feagler

Q: You've had a really great spring season. Did you think you would make such an impact, this early on, as a freshman?

A: Yeah, I thought I could make a big impact, actually. I thought I could make a huge impact in the fall but unfortunately it didn't happen that way. I just wasn't comfortable with balancing school and golf. Also when it's your first semester you tend to be overwhelmed and I definitely was.

Q: There's been a big improvement and difference for you already between your fall and spring season. What made this difference? What did you work on to get better?

A: I think the biggest things that have made a difference are just playing my game and limiting mistakes on the golf course. My game has always been accuracy and during the fall I kind of strayed away from that. Also, when I was out playing golf, I would tend to think about assignments for school and just get distracted. The things I worked on were mostly mental and nothing mechanics-wise. I just really worked on having a calm demeanor on the golf course and not getting flustered.

Q: What's been your favorite moment so far throughout your whole freshman season?

A: My favorite moment so far was playing in front of the Pepperdine fans at North Ranch Country Club. Also, to win there in front of the people watching made it extra special. 

Q: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?

A: My personal goal for the rest of the season is to finish every tournament for the rest of the year inside the top 15. If I sneak a top five or a win, then that's great.

Q: What are the team goals for the rest of the season?

A: Our team goals are to be inside the top 10 before the season is over and to win our conference.

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine both to come to school to and in terms of the golf team?

A: I chose Pepperdine as a school because the coaches were great, the school was great, the size of the class was the perfect size for me and who would not like that view!

Q: What have you enjoyed most about the team so far?

A: The things I like most about the team are just the people that are on it. We have a great group of guys on it and having those guys care for you and root for you is just great.

Q: What do you like and enjoy about the coaches?

A: They are here to help you with your game and to get you to the next level. You can also go to them to talk about anything with them. They really care for you and that's what great coaches do.

Three Pepperdine women's volleyball players, Tarah Wylie, Hana Lishman and Jasmine Gross, were recently invited to try out for the U.S. Women's National Team in Colorado Springs. They shared with us their experience at the tryouts and updated us on what the team is doing in the coming months:

Jasmine  Gross  Hana  Lishman  Tarah  Wylie

Q: You all were recently received invite to try out for the U.S. Women's National Team. How did you all feel to be invited?

Wylie: It was amazing to know that Pepperdine would help us grow in our sport through this opportunity.

Lishman:  The most exciting part of getting the invitation was hearing and knowing that Pepperdine was there to support us with this awesome experience. Pepperdine gave us and allowed us to have this opportunity to continue our career and grow in our sport. 

Gross: I felt excited and grateful that Pepperdine was able to give me the opportunity to go after my goals and they were supportive in that.

Q: Describe the experience from day one through the tryout.

Wylie: We had four tryout sessions throughout three days. One on the first day, two on the second, and one on the third. It was mostly competition-based except for the first 30 minutes of every session where we got to warm up by positions. One of the coolest parts of this experience was having the opportunity to talk to other players from the West Coast Conference. I have friends on some of the teams we play against, but not many, and it was really special to form relationships with people I normally only see across the net.

Lishman: There were different sessions throughout the day. I was in the 6 o'clock session, while Tarah and Jasmine were in the 4 o'clock. While waiting, I walked around the training center, explored and met new girls from many different schools. On that first day of the tryout, we did some quick warm-up drills for passing, serving and hitting. Then the last hour or so of the session was playing games and wash drills. Throughout the entire tryouts, each session was about the same. Another cool thing about this tryout was meeting new people from other schools that we wouldn't normally come across.  Also, becoming good friends with the girls on teams that are in our conference was really fun. Normally, because we play against each other, we would be "rivals," but at the tryouts, that was set aside and it was very cool getting to know them and become good friends.

Gross: We got off the plane and went straight to the training camp, where we got room assignments and meal cards. One of my roommates played for BYU and the other one played for Michigan. Then we went to our first session where they separated each player by position using different colored shirts. Then we got into playing for about two hours. Then we went to dinner, took showers and got ready for the next day of tryouts. We did some skills like serving, passing and some hitting lines. Then we just competed by doing different scrimmage games. I had played against and with many of the girls throughout my club career. I played in the Under Armour All American game my senior year, so most of the girls who played in that match with me were at the tryout as well. The volleyball world is very small so all three of us knew many people.

Q: How did it make you feel to try out for a spot to compete on the national team, or on one of the three collegiate teams?

Lishman: While traveling there, the nerves were building up because I was very excited and anxious for the weekend.  I had no idea what to expect.  As each session went on, the nerves went away and the motivation and passion as to why I love and play this sport came pouring out.  Realizing I was there at the Olympic Training Center, trying out for the National Team was overwhelming, but a dream come true. 

Gross: It was a great experience, but it really humbled me by showing me how much work I still have left to do to reach my goal of being on the national team.

Q: Give us a final thought on your experience in Colorado Springs.

Wylie: It was our first experience with USA Volleyball and I know we were all excited to play and be noticed. It was a great opportunity for all of us and I am grateful that we get to grow our careers together.

Lishman: Being given the chance to represent my school, where I'm from, my coaches, and even my family was a great experience and opportunity.

Gross:  It was a great experience and I am hoping to try out again in the next few years

Q: You lost one of your assistant coaches a few weeks ago. Do you have any words of encouragement for Alex Dunphy, who has joined Minnesota's program?

Wylie: Alex Dunphy was one of the biggest reasons I came to Pepperdine and I have the upmost respect for her. She is a wonderfully talented coach and an even better person, so I know she will do nothing but be a star at Minnesota. They will soon figure out, if they haven't already, what an incredible asset she is for any program.

Lishman: Alex Dunphy was and still is an awesome coach. She knew how and when to be fun, but also knew how to be serious and get work done. She definitely made my freshman year experience memorable and manageable because she was constantly there to help me with not only volleyball, but school and life as well. I know she will do great things at Minnesota just as she did here at Pepperdine. I appreciate all she has done for my team and I, and I am very excited to see her accomplish new things!

Gross: I have already told Alex this, but we all miss her a lot. We know she has a great opportunity in Minnesota and we are all very excited to see her do big things.

Q: Now, how did you react learning that a Pepperdine Hall of Famer and former All-American, Julie (Rubenstein) Bennett, would be joining the coaching staff?

Wylie: When I first learned about Julie Bennett coming back to Pepperdine to coach us, I was excited to learn from a great player and Hall of Famer. Now I consider her a friend and she fits in with our team so well. I am looking forward to our time together!

Lishman: When I heard we had a new assistant, I, alongside my teammates, were thrilled. When we found out who it was, we were even more stoked because some, if not most, of us knew Julie and knew she was a great player here at Pepperdine.  With the time that I have had with her so far, she has already helped me in many ways with volleyball, and I am looking forward to more practices and seasons with her. 

Gross:  We are still in the process of getting to know Julie, and she has been so awesome. She brings new and helpful feedback as well as a great personality, so we are super stoked to have her.

Q: What are you doing in the off-season?

Wylie: The off-season is a busy time of the year for our team right now as we are currently in 20 hours. We are working hard every day to improve our team physically and mentally. It's an honor to be growing closer with my teammates every day and seeing them grow as people and players.

Lishman: Off-season is our big training season. We have practice at 6:30 a.m. every morning, then lifting or conditioning following that.  I really like spring training because it is a chance for our team to get strong, practice hard, improve and do whatever we can to prepare for our upcoming season, especially summer. 

Gross: Right now we are practicing every day from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we have lifting. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have conditioning. We have a few spring matches as well. We played CSUN at Pepperdine a few weekends ago and we play at USC for a spring tournament on April 1st.

Q: The summer is coming up soon! Do you have any big plans?

Wylie: This summer our team is going on a European Tour and I could not be any more excited. This will be a summer for the books. I get to play volleyball while traveling the world with my best friends and I am looking forward to seeing how our team matches up to the international teams we will compete against.

Lishman: This summer, our team will be traveling to Europe to play some professional teams.  We leave May 22, and are going to many different cities and countries such as Milan, Venice, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia. We are all very excited for this trip because many of us haven't been out of the country yet and this is a great time for our team to come together and go through this life-changing experience that some of us may never have the chance to do again.

Gross: We are going to Europe as a team to play at the end of May. This is very exciting for us and we are really looking forward to not only expanding our view on the world, but expanding our volleyball skills as well.

Talya Holenstein is a freshman on the women's track team. Already in her career, she set the school's 400-meter record in just her second outdoor meet (since re-broken by Izzy Connell) and Holenstein was part of relay teams that set both the 4x100 and the 4x400 records. She reflects on what this was like for her and how her time with Pepperdine has been so far overall:

Talya  Holenstein

Q: You've set some records pretty early on in your career. How has that experience been for you?

A: I would definitely say that being a part of the relays and getting to break the school records in both of them has been the highlight of my season thus far. Breaking personal records is great, but there is something to be said for joining together with three other girls and getting to do it together. I was especially happy being able to contribute to this goal for two of our senior girls who have been wanting to break the relay records since they were freshmen. I'm glad I got to be a part of that with them.  

Q: What's it like as a freshman doing so well so early? Did you think you had a shot at school records when you came on?

A: Coming to Pepperdine, I knew that I would fit in well with the program and could have a shot at the school records during my time here. I've been really pleased with what I've been able to accomplish thus far, a lot of which stems from having strong upper-class runners who push me every day in practice and set the bar high.   

Q: What's your background with running?

A: Running and the sport of track and field have been a part of my entire life. Both of my parents ran in college. My mom was an 800 runner at UC Irvine and my dad a decathlete at Portland State University. So growing up, it was always a big part of our family, and I grew to love the sport as well. 

Q: What led you to come to Pepperdine?

A: I came to Pepperdine for several reasons, one of which was to live and train in warm weather for a change (I'm from Portland, Oregon). But besides the climate and location, I really appreciated the small community Pepperdine had to offer, which was something I was looking for in a college. 

Q: What do you like about the track team?

A: My favorite thing about our team is the crazy dynamic and atmosphere we have. We are definitely a team that jokes around a lot, meaning there is never a dull moment. When you spend so much time together it's important to keep things fun, and we do a really good job of that. 

Q: What are your goals and hopes for running, as you move forward?

A: Moving forward, my short-term goals are to just keep working my times down, especially in the 400. If I could get to a low 56 by the end of the season, that would be a really good start for me to work off of for the next three years. I also really hope to lower our school records in both of the relays before the season is up because I know we are capable, it's just a matter of all the working parts coming together. 

Q: What are your goals for school?

A: As of right now, I am an undecided major, so one of my goals is to figure out a career path during my time here. But in the meantime, I just hope to continue to get good grades and put in the effort at school as my main priority.

Senior outfielder Matt Gelalich tells us about the non-conference season, preparing for West Coast Conference play and his post-baseball aspirations. The Waves host three games this weekend, two against Grand Canyon and one versus Long Beach State.
Matt  Gelalich

Q: The season is off and running, with the last non-conference series this weekend. How has the non-conference season been going for the Waves?

A: I think it has been going well. Probably not as great as we would have liked, but we have a lot of promise. There is a ton of talent on this team, and we just need to put it all together, and I think that we will be fine.

Q: What are some of the adjustments that need to be made before WCC play begins?

A: I think it is a matter of just firing on all cylinders. There have been games where our pitchers have been unhittable, but we couldn't hit, and there have been games where we are hitting well, and our pitchers haven't been as good. We just need to get both sides of the ball on the same page in the same game, and we will be off and running.

Q: How important is non-conference play to the team?

A: It's huge. We have a lot of tough non-conference opponents on our schedule this year, and at the end of the year, if you don't win conference, how you play against non-conference teams is what gives you your RPI and an at-large bid to a regional. We know this, and we make sure we take it extremely seriously.

Q: Is WCC play something the team looks forward to with extra hunger? Or do you try to keep the games as just another series?

A: It is definitely something we look forward to. We think that we are the best team in the conference, and we like going out to the other teams and proving it. It is going to be a fun year for sure.

Q: Are there any specific series that the team is looking forward to?

A: We always look forward to the San Diego series. They are always really good, we are always really good, and the games are some of the most competitive of the entire year. Plus, we always like to beat them. They are definitely one of the biggest rivalries we have.

Q: This being your senior year, is there a little extra weight on the way the season plays out?

A:  I don't think so, I am just trying to have fun. This might be my last year playing the game, so I just want to leave it all on the field and have no regrets looking back on my career.

Q: With draft implications, are you looking to play ball after college, or are you going to hang up the spikes and move to post-baseball life?

A: I would love to keep playing if I get the opportunity to. That is something that will play out how it plays out, and if I am lucky enough to have the opportunity, I want to make the most of it, but if not, I am fine with ending my career as a Pepperdine Wave.

Q: Speaking of the post-baseball, what, when baseball finally does end, is your plan? Grad school?

A: I am going to be applying to dental school this summer if I don't get to continue playing. Hopefully that works out, because along with playing baseball, I have wanted to be a dentist ever since I was little. Regardless of the outcome of baseball, I know that I will be happy doing what I love doing.

Freshman RHP Wil Jensen has begun his first year off strong and has earned the role as the Waves' Sunday starting pitcher. He speaks about being a first-year student-athlete on the baseball team and at Pepperdine, along with the challenges that come along with that:

Wil  Jensen

Q: As a freshman, you came in and were immediately being put into a starting role. What has that been like?

A: It was definitely unexpected, but I have been super happy to have the chance to come in and show them what I have to offer, and hopefully I get the chance to continue to do so.

Q: What were the nerves like in the first couple outings, and how did you overcome them?

A: To be honest, I'm not sure if I truly overcame them, but rather I tried to use them as a motivating factor rather than a hindrance.

Q: How has the transition from high school to college been athletically?

A: With pitching, your mistakes hurt you a whole lot more in college. If you miss your spot, the hitters will really take advantage of you, where in high school, I had a little more leeway with the mistakes that I made.

Q: Has the transition academically been as easy as athletically?

A: Pepperdine is definitely a tough school academically. There is definitely way more work than in high school, and the work is more vigorous. It is hard, but still fun at the same time.

Q: As a freshman, you are obviously going to be here for at least a couple years. What are your goals for this year, your first in college baseball?

A: My goals this year as a freshman are to keep my ERA below 5. I definitely think that is reasonable and attainable. I also want to help the team make a regional, and then a Super Regional as well.

Q: Why did you choose to come to Pepperdine to play baseball?

A: I chose Pepperdine for two very specific people: pitching coach Rolando Garza, and strength and conditioning coach Stew Gonzales. Those two individuals together made Pepperdine the best place for me to come and improve. Those two coaches along with the academic reputation of the school made it an easy choice.

Q: Being from Utah, what have been both the hardest and easiest parts of coming to school here?

A: When I first moved to college, I didn't think that being away from home was going to affect me as much as it does. Not being able to see family is tough. However, meeting the people that I have and making the personal growth has made coming to Pepperdine completely worth it.

Delaney Knudsen, a senior on the women's beach volleyball team, has a great track record. She was part of the 2014 AVCA national championship team, helped lead the team to win the inaugural 2016 West Coast Conference Tournament crown and is a three-time Pepperdine Scholar-Athlete. With the season now here, Delaney talks about what she's looking forward to and how her four years on the team has been:

Delaney  Knudsen

Q: Since you're so close to the start of the season what are you looking forward to most?

A: I am really looking forward to competition. There is a special feeling when you get to actually compete and represent your school that is impossible to recreate in practice and I can't wait for it.

Q: How does it feel to be heading into your senior year as a Wave?

A: It's a very unique feeling to be in my senior year. I feel like just yesterday I was a freshman because the time has flown, but at the same time I know that I have grown and learned so much over the past four years that have made me a very different person!

Q: What are you looking forward to and most excited about as you head into your senior year on the team?

A: I am definitely most excited about the team we have this season. We have a lot of new girls and the dynamic on our team is just amazing this year. It's been awesome grinding with them all of fall and preseason, and I'm excited to take on all the challenges and victories of this season with all of them.

Q: How is the team playing so far?

A: I'm stoked at how everyone is playing this year! The level of hard work and competitive drive has been so high and we've all seen a lot of improvement. It's been a very motivating and rewarding year as far as training goes and I can't wait to see how that translates when the season comes.

Q: Was there a lot of playing in the off-season to prepare for the upcoming season?

A: We have done a lot of competing this off-season to keep us prepared for the season, notably more than in previous years, and it has been so great. We compete in a variety of different formats, but it keeps everyone fired up and working hard and it's been a major contributor to the motivation I feel on our team.

Q: You have lots of new faces on the team this year -- how are they fitting in?

A: I honestly could not have asked for a better group of newcomers this year. Both our freshmen and the transfers we got have fit in perfectly with our team. They each added their own unique sense of humor or fire to the mix and have only improved the team dynamic and culture.

Q: How are they changing the overall team dynamic? What's it been like?

A: I think that the addition of some new fifth-year transfers has been awesome because they bring the high standards that they have learned over their careers at other colleges that keep us accountable, but they also have this attitude of humble hard work, being new to our program, that is an amazing example to the rest of us too. Our freshmen are new to the standards and challenges of being a student-athlete, but they have all embraced it with 100% commitment and it has been so awesome and inspiring to see their improvement over the past few months. 

Q: What is it like to have Zuma Beach as a home court? How is it different and what do you like about it?

A: I love Zuma Beach! I could not ask for a better home court. It's absolutely gorgeous every single day, and with a 2-6 p.m. practice block we are usually cleaning up the courts as the sun sets and it's just beautiful. Weather is a huge factor playing on the beach as opposed to the man-made courts that other schools have. It's a huge advantage to be able to train in all the elements when they come, and to still have a handful of perfect days too.

Q: What's your favorite memory with the team?

A: I think my favorite memory with this team so far was bonding over our fall conditioning tests. The format of our workout was such that everyone had to be giving their maximum effort, and it was done in two waves so there was always someone cheering you on. It was really cool to have the opportunity to push my teammates to reach their goals and to also feel their support while I was working my hardest to reach mine. It set a high standard of mutual support and effort for the rest of the off-season that has been met over and over again.

Q: What's your favorite memory of playing so far?

A: My favorite memory playing so far has to be winning a national championship my freshman year. Nothing compares to that feeling and I'm going to do everything I can to help my team earn that again this year.

Redshirt junior first baseman Ben Rodriguez had a massive opening weekend for the Pepperdine baseball team, going 4-for-9 with two home runs in the first three games vs. St. Joseph's. He talks about his confidence at the plate, his belief in the team this year and about the trip the team will make to Texas during spring break. The Texas trip will consist of a three-game series against Texas A&M, a Tuesday game against Sam Houston State and a three-game series against Rice University.
Ben  Rodriguez

Q: You guys had a big sweep of St. Joseph's this past weekend to open up the season. How big is it to start the season off that way?

A: This is the first time that we have won on opening day in the four years that I have been here, so it is a big deal to get our team rolling with some wins, especially going into the stretch of baseball that we are about to go into. It is good to have that kind of confidence going into that big trip.

Q: You had a big weekend yourself. What made you so comfortable at the plate?

A: Just simplifying the game. Looking for quality pitches to hit, get the barrel of the bat on it, and slowing the game down. It is so important to stick to your own game plan and know what you are good at without trying to do everything. If you stick to your strengths, you are going to have success.

Q: Now that Brad Anderson and Manny Jefferson are gone, do you feel that you have any added roles, and trying to produce some extra power for the team?

A: No, not at all. Our depth, especially with power, is unbelievable. I think that everybody wants to get involved, and I would love to lead the charge, but we have so many bats, that it is not just on me, by any means.

Q: Who are some of the guys on the team that will be able to step into that role of bringing a little extra power to the team alongside you?

A: I think that everyone on the team can step into that role. This is one of the most talented teams that I have ever played for. We are just so deep at every position. Even at the top of the order, Quincy (McAfee) had one this weekend, (Matt) Gelalich is a strong, strong dude. And then getting to the middle of the order, (Jordan) Qsar and (Austin) Bernard are some big-time bats. We have a long season, and as the games come and the guys get more and more comfortable, I think that you are going to see guys step up and hit some bombs, especially in the middle of the order.

Q: Looking ahead, you have a big trip out to Texas. How important is this trip for the team?

A: It's very important. Something Coach Cooper (Fouts) told us yesterday really rang true. He said that we are all college baseball players at heart, and going into this week, if you love college baseball, you have to love this trip. We go to A&M and to Rice, which are two big-time perennial winning teams. It is definitely a chance to measure ourselves against a quality of baseball that we probably won't see again until the postseason.

Q: What are the team's expectations for the trip?

A: We definitely have high expectations. We have a winning culture in our clubhouse. The expectation is always to beat everyone we are playing. This is a big stretch of baseball, including, but not limited to, the Texas trip. When we get back we have Cal Berkeley, another strong team. We have a big three-week span coming up. We all expect to win, and a desire to win. We want to make sure we go out and represent Pepperdine and show teams that we are here to win, and win often.

Q: How important is it to play these big-time teams in the beginning of the season?

A: I think it is huge. It is so important to have games against real strong, tough opponents so that you can be battle-tested. Especially for the freshmen. The young guys coming in don't really know what big-time D1 baseball is all about yet. Our conference is going to be really competitive, but these two weeks are going to really show those guys what high-level college baseball is, because these are the types of teams we are going to be playing in regionals, super regionals, and into the College World Series.

Q: Going forward with the season, what can we expect from the Waves?

A: You can expect us to compete day in and day out. If it is fair to say that you can expect wins, then you can expect wins. I have confidence in this team to go out every single day and get better, and that is definitely going to produce a lot of wins for this program.

Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, a sophomore on the women's basketball team, has had a great season so far with a team-high 14.7 points per game. She's the first Wave to record 10 double-doubles since 2001. She shares her thoughts on the season and what she likes to do off the court:

Yasmine  Robinson-Bacote

Q: How has the season been going so far?

A: It has been going pretty well. We have had our ups and downs like any other team, but we are definitely hitting our stride. We had a good win against San Diego and we a hoping to keep that momentum going forward as we get into the last couple of games of the regular season.

Q: You had a great game against Pacific a few weeks ago with 25 points and 16 rebounds! What helped you to do so well?

A: We needed to have a really good game and it was just the flow of the game. I didn't really know how many points or rebounds I had until the end. I tried to grab the balls as I saw them and take every shot that I could. The team did a great job of finding me and creating open shots for me, which made my job easier. I tried to make their jobs easier by clearing up the boards when I could. Unfortunately, we did not win, but it was a highlight to see that we could play at such a high level.

Q: When talking to you earlier this season, you said that your goal was to be the best teammate possible and to become a better player every day. Have you been able to meet that goal?

A: I have definitely been working toward it. We have a great coaching staff that brings a lot of different things to the table. I have been trying to learn from them every day and be a sponge and absorb everything. I am still learning and growing, but I am definitely taking steps in the right direction in becoming the player that I want to be.

Q: What more are you looking to get from this season?

A: We want to keep working smarter, rather than harder, because most of the time we are working to the best of our abilities, but we have not been working as smart as we should. We are definitely still growing in that aspect, but we really want to finish off the season well. We are going to have to bring our "A" Game. We need to stay focused, take it day by day, and trust the process.

Q: What is your favorite memory from this season so far?

A: I would have to say the Gonzaga win is still up there. We came in with a hungry mentality and we still have that mentality. It seemed like everything clicked for us and everybody gave a little something. Everybody played so well. It was one of the best games of the season and we got the outcome we wanted. It was a big upset, so it was definitely the highlight of the season.

Q: Looking forward to next season, what are you hoping carries over from the current season?

A: I think we need to continue our progression and not being comfortable with where we are right now. We are making good strides. Maturing is something we have to work on collectively because we will have to look for leadership not only in Kim (Jacobs), but in other players. There is going to be a lot of stepping up from me and my other teammates to try to fill that void that Allie (Green) has been for us. 

Q: You have 10 double-doubles so far this year. What skills have you been working on to remain so consistent?

A: I think it is more about being aggressive, going after the ball and not taking any plays off. Often times you take a play off and miss those rebounds or extra points. For me it has been all about staying consistent and focused and making sure I know what my responsibility is on the court.

Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual before each game?

A: Allie and I blast music, scream at the top our lungs, and jump around. We get our pre-game sweat right there before we actually get out on the court. That is something fun we do and I am really going to miss that next year.

Q: What would a perfect day look like for you?

A: I wouldn't get up at 8 a.m., that would be the first thing. I would wake up about 10 o'clock, get breakfast, watch a little Netflix, and then drive down PCH playing some music and relaxing. Then I would come back and hang out with the team, eat lunch, watch a little more Netflix, eat dinner, watch a little more Netflix and finally go to bed. That would be a perfect day for me.

Q: When you aren't playing basketball or studying, what do you like to do?

A: Definitely hang out with friends, which is mostly the team. We really like to hang out a lot. I like to go out to eat, go to movies and watch Netflix. I really enjoying relaxing.

Men's Tennis Update: Stefan Menichella

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As the men's tennis season continues on, senior Stefan Menichella takes a lighthearted look at how the idea of gratitude makes him a better tennis player:

Stefan  Menichella

Stefan Menichella is the name and tennis is my game. Due to the fact that as a busy student-athlete I never felt the need to voluntarily accept yet another homework assignment, this is my first time writing for the Competing with Purpose blog. However, I am now a second-semester senior and am taking only two classes, so if you or your friends have any homework you don't want to do, just send it my way. Just kidding! All right. Done with my lighthearted intro. Let's get philosophical, shall we?

One cannot explain to an incoming freshman just how much they will learn, grow and develop during these four years. Freshmen, many of you might as well be embryos right now. As a veteran student-athlete on his way out of the college sports scene, if I were to give these young impressionable ears any piece of advice it would be to remain grateful.

Being grateful is the most enjoyable form of acceptance. It's difficult to be worried about past mistakes or future challenges or to be angry with yourself or anyone else when you embody a strong sense of gratitude. Gratitude requires you to expand your perspective and allows you to reside in the present moment.

You may be thinking something along the lines of, "Stefan, enough with this hippie nonsense. Shouldn't you be writing about tennis instead of telling me how to feel?" To answer your question ... probably. But patience, I'm getting to that.

With my college tennis career nearing its end, I have only recently begun to feel truly grateful for each day, practice, match and workout. I have begun to recognize that each day is another opportunity to improve and enjoy doing something I love alongside my closest friends. I'm alive, in good physical condition, above-average looking (up for debate), and I get to run, compete and hit a fuzzy yellow tennis ball several hours a day with my boys!

Largely due to this newly discovered feeling of gratitude, I have been playing matches with more calmness, focus and confidence. This isn't just me talking, however. There is conclusive scientific evidence from MRI scans of the brain that shows that the feeling of gratitude has a significant positive impact on our nervous system. Gratitude allows tension to exit your muscles and stress to leave your brain. As it turns out, these effects have a profoundly positive impact on one's tennis game.

Gratitude helps you play more freely with less concern about results and other things out of your control. This frees up your mind to focus on things that you can control such as strategy or technique. If you made it this far, I'm going to leave you with this: sports and life, in general, become significantly more enjoyable when you are grateful and see everything from a broader perspective.

Allie Green is the only senior on the Pepperdine women's basketball team. As her final games at Pepperdine are approaching - including Saturday's home finale against rival LMU - she reflects on the past four years and gives advice to her teammates:

Allie  Green

Q: What are your thoughts on the season so far?

A: I definitely think that we have surprised people with some games that we have won. We still are very young, so that shows sometimes. However, I think that we are growing, developing and figuring out what we need to do in the last few games.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?

A: I want to play basketball for as long as I can, so that's the first option. I really want to stay in L.A. and figure my life out from there, but basketball is the first option.

Q: Since Kim Jacobs will be the only senior on the team next year, do you have any advice for her?

A: I would tell her don't panic because there is a lot of stress that comes with being the only senior. It is just like being a point guard on the team. You get a lot of things blamed on you because everything runs through you, but you have to take it with a chip on your shoulder and realize the things you need to do in order for your team to be successful.

Q: What is your favorite memory from this season?

A: Beating Gonzaga. That was big. That was big personally because we had never beaten them before. We were always looked at as the underdogs and they are considered the top of our conference, so it was huge.

Q: How are you feeling about Senior Day this weekend?

A: I am excited. I am probably not going to get emotional, but emotions will be running through my mind and body. I don't want to focus on the fact that it is my last night playing here. I just want to make sure I do all I can for my team to get the win.

Q: What do you think you will miss the most about Pepperdine?

A: My teammates. All the teammates that I have had these past few years. I am with them 24/7 and we have so many memories. That will be the hardest for me.

Q: What was your favorite season over the past four years and why?

A: I would say this one is probably my favorite season. Even though our record doesn't show it, in our practices and when we are all together, it is just so different. There is chemistry on and off the court. I just really have loved it this year.

Q: What have the past years meant to you?

A: A lot. The past four years here have really helped me grow as a person. I have been through a lot and I learned who truly is there for me and who isn't. Everyone here is so helpful with the smallest things and I am really going to miss that.

Q: What advice would you give to your teammates for next year?

A: I would tell them to keep pushing. Even when we get down, keep our heads up. Never giving up is the biggest thing for me because the past four years have been really tough record-wise and we have come so close to winning games. We just need to find that little extra push. I would encourage them to keep trying to change the culture and keep a positive mindset.

Baseball Q&A: Ryan Wilson

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Ryan Wilson, a junior left-handed pitcher for the Waves, tells us about the upcoming season and how the Waves have been preparing and waiting for the season to finally come. The Waves take on Saint Joseph's this weekend at Eddy D. Field Stadium.
Ryan  Wilson

Q: Baseball season is finally upon us. What is the excitement level in the team right now leading up to the first series of the year?

A: We are really excited to finally get out on the field and showcase what we have been working on this year. It has been a long offseason, but a good one, and I think that I speak for everyone in saying that we just want to start playing.

Q: What were preparations like this year compared to the other years you have been here? Anything different that was done that you felt had a really positive impact on the team?

A: This year, the position players ran with the pitchers in the mornings. It was definitely a positive impact because it really helped with the team camaraderie more so than past years, where our morning practices are separate.

Q: How does the semester break affect the performance of the team? It must be a welcome break, but there is always the fear that having that break can be a negative aspect to the team.

A: There is definitely a potential fear to it. However, everyone on the team knows that there is a job to do during that break. We take it upon ourselves to make sure we get the work in to prepare for when we come back to school. I also think that the motivation of being able to start playing games after break makes the break a little more focused on baseball, so when we come back, there isn't a lull in practices where we have to readjust to baseball again.

Q: How have the freshmen meshed with the team? Were they able to fit in right away? And the transfers as well?

A: All the freshmen proved that they're going to fight for the rest of the guys and you're going to see a lot of freshmen come in big for us this year, which will show how much work they've put in to help this team win. The same goes for the two transfers we have. Unfortunately, Duncan McKinnon will have to sit out a year, but both he and Austin Gehle, the other transfer, know their roles and are doing everything they can to help the team. Gehle for sure is going to come up big for the team during the year.

Q: You played in the Cape Cod League this past summer. What was that experience like?

A: It was fun. I learned a lot. There was definitely a lot of baseball. I think that the best part about playing in the Cape is the friends you make. I for sure made some life-long friends while playing. The coaches were incredible too. Really high quality baseball with awesome people around you.

Q: What were some of the things that you learned in the Cape that have really helped you out so far this year?

A: Our pitching coach was kind of a guru about pitching. Personally, he taught me a lot of different grips on the ball in order to make it spin a certain way. I have definitely been using the grips he showed me to make the ball move to where I want it to move, even within the same pitches.

Q: The Waves did not make an NCAA Regional last year after making one the previous two years. How motivating has that been so far in wanting to get back to the postseason?

A: I think it will make it just that much better if and when we do make it. At the same time, we are taking the year every day at a time, and taking the season pitch by pitch and game by game in order to be as successful as we want to be. We can't look to the past and use that as motivation because we need to look to the future and focus on the job ahead of us.

Q: You are pegged to win WCC Pitcher of the Year by D1 Baseball. Does that motivate you to fulfill that, or do you try keep that off of your mind?

A: Again, it is motivating, but those types of things take care of themselves if you stick to your approach and keep the same game plan day after day. If I focus on trying to fulfill that idea, I am going to get away from my game plan, so I keep my mind off of it.

Q: Finally, with the season just around the corner, what can we expect from the Waves this year?

A: I think that you can expect some fun baseball. When we play our Pepperdine baseball, it is hard for any team in the country to beat us. If you come to the games, expect to see some really good baseball, and expect to see guys showing off what we have been working on and guys being really successful in doing so.

James Gehrels, a senior on the men's volleyball team, has truly made waves throughout his time here at Pepperdine. Besides his achievements on the court, he's a three-time Pepperdine scholar-athlete, co-president of the Waves Leadership Council and a member of the NCAA national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. His most recent accomplishment was being named NCAA Division I SAAC Vice Chair. He talks a little bit about what this means as well as his future goals and plans:

James  Gehrels

Q: So what does this position of NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Vice Chair look like for you?

A: As Vice Chair of DI SAAC I work with three other student-athletes and some NCAA staff members to help guide, plan and facilitate everything that the 32 student-athletes on the committee do. These responsibilities include planning out meetings and strategically prioritizing our goals and objectives for the next year. 

Q: What does it mean to you to have this title?

A: I am extremely humbled and excited to have been elected to this position. I have represented the student-athletes of Pepperdine and the West Coast Conference for the past two and a half years and now to be able to serve them in this role for another year is an incredible honor. 

Q: How did attaining this title come about?

A: At the most recent NCAA Convention in Nashville there were elections that were held for vice chairs for this coming year and I was fortunate enough to be selected by my fellow committee members.

Q: What are you most looking forward to accomplish within the position?

A: I'm most looking forward to being able to have an even greater impact on the lives of all Division I student-athletes both current and in the future as well. The decisions that our group helps make will impact the lives of those to come, which is an incredible honor but also a great responsibility.

Q: Since this is your senior year, is this a position you'll pass on to someone else after you graduate?

A: This position of Vice Chair isn't something I pass down, however serving as the West Coast Conference representative is something that another student-athlete will be elected to following the 2017-2018 school year. (Note: national SAAC rules allow Gehring to serve as Vice Chair for 2017-18, even after his graduation and final competition as a student-athlete.)

Q: How did being a Wave help you get to such a prestigious national position?

A: I wouldn't be in the position I am today without all of the help and support that I have received from Pepperdine Athletics and the university as a whole. Being able to represent Pepperdine in this way is an incredible experience and something I will be forever grateful for. It truly has given me a platform to have an impact on our campus here in Malibu, but also the ability to spread what makes Pepperdine such an incredible and special place to others around the country. 

Q: What is your favorite memory to date about working with the Pepperdine, conference and/or national SAAC committees?

A: There are so many amazing memories that it is nearly impossible to put my finger on one or another, but a couple that really stick out would be attending NCAA conventions or the NACDA and Affiliates convention, and of course our #RefueltheWaves crowdfunding campaign which raised funds to directly impact our meal and refueling options here in athletics.

Q: Any plans for what you want to do after graduation (and does athletics factor in at all)?

A: I plan to hopefully attend grad school upon graduation and study Sport Management and Business Administration. I ultimately want to get into collegiate athletic administration one day by becoming a director of athletics. I hope to get there by fundraising and building relationships and continuing to improve the student-athlete experience along the way.

Q: Do you have any other reflections as you look back on your time here at Pepperdine?

A: I'm just so thankful for my coaches and administrators here at Pepperdine who have helped open doors for me to be successful well beyond my time here at Pepperdine. Those relationships and friendships I have made will last a lifetime and for that I am forever grateful.

Bria Richardson, a former four-year letterwinner for the Peperdine women's basketball team and a current graduate manager with the Waves, recently attended the NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar in Indianapolis. She reflects on the experience that she had, and how it helped her understand where she fits in intercollegiate athletics:

Bria  Richardson

Q: You recently got back from the NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar. Can you explain what exactly it was?

A: The NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar included graduate assistants and interns at schools in the NCAA, and it was all about introducing us to the world of college athletics.

Q: How did you hear about the conference, and what made you decide that it was something that you were interested in attending?

A: Several administrators at Pepperdine mentioned the seminar to me because they had been a part of it early in their careers as well.

Q: Was there an overarching theme that the NCAA was portraying at the conference?

A: Yes, we talked a lot about personality traits and how they play into the world of intercollegiate athletics and how the traits link to different roles within athletics. A big part of it was learning about yourself in the workplace and finding the strengths and weaknesses in order to use them in the job at hand. The method we used to identify the traits was called the DISC program. In the DISC program, you take a test and answer questions based on how you would react in certain workplace situations. After the test is finished, the program gives you values for each letter in DISC. The D stands for dominant, the I for inspiring, the S for supportive and the C for cautious. It is very similar to the Meyers-Briggs test or the Strengths-Finder test.

Q: What were some of the largest takeaways that you personally had from the conference?

A: We learned about the NCAA rules that are being talked about and implemented. A couple of the big ones that really stuck with me are the time management plan and the travel day rules. Learning about the rules and how they become implemented was really cool to see. A really great thing the NCAA is doing is giving the student-athletes a say in the proceedings through SAAC (the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee). The biggest takeaway that I had was that they are now listening to the athletes a lot more than they previously were.

Q: How big is the voice of the SAAC in these proceedings?

A: It seems to be very instrumental. SAAC was really pushing the rules that are being talked about and implemented, and it seems like the NCAA is really listening to its student-athletes.

Q: In your current position of graduate manager for the women's basketball team, how can you use what you learned at the conference to benefit the team?

A: Definitely understanding peoples' behavior styles. It's pretty funny because now when I talk to the girls, the letters from the DISC become apparent in the girls. I find myself thinking about which letter each girl would be more dominant in while speaking to them. It has also been helpful in finding their strengths and weaknesses and knowing how to talk to them in order to make them more successful as athletes, but more importantly as human beings. Being able to know how to speak to different people through the DISC program is something that I can see myself using for a long time. I think that a lot of people would benefit form taking the test, not just in sports settings, but also in other work settings, and even family settings.

Q: Thinking back to your playing days at Pepperdine, was there anything that you learned at the conference that you wish you would have known while you were still playing?

A: I wish I would have known how important SAAC is. I think that had I known what kind of voice it gives student-athletes, I would have become more involved than I already was. I served on one of the committees within the campus, but knowing what I do now about how much of a voice they have in the lives of the student-athletes, I would have taken up a leadership position and tried to make even more of a difference.

Q: How do you think that this experience will make you a better leader as you continue your career into collegiate athletics?

A: Listening to our keynote speaker and the other speakers, I think that I have learned the point of being in intercollegiate athletics. It's about the love of the students. It isn't about the money, it isn't about the titles. I think that having the experience that I did, and hearing from different people from all sides of athletics, whether it be the academics side or the compliance side and everything in between, hearing their stories was the best way to learn about what they did. I think that the stories are the best way we can learn about how to do our job in athletics more efficiently.

Q: If you knew someone else who was thinking about attending the conference, would you give them a recommendation to attend? If so, why?

A: I highly recommend it. One of the other takeaways that I had was you get to learn about all the other sectors in athletics. Whether it was academics, student development, compliance, marketing, it was all there. You get to kind of find your niche when you hear about all of the other types of jobs there are in collegiate athletics. Within the conference, there were breakout sessions, where you got to choose the career that you were currently in, which for me was academic support because they didn't have a session specifically for coaching, and I also work with athlete support, and also a session for jobs that you might be interested in going forward. I was able to confirm that I am definitely interested in academic support and student development, but I also learned that the marketing side of things is not something that I could see myself doing. It helps you get a feel for which aspect of intercollegiate athletics is really for you.